Brooks Robinson, legendary Hall of Fame third baseman for the Orioles, dies at 86

Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson died Tuesday, his household mentioned in a joint assertion with the Orioles. He was 86.

”An integral a part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he’ll proceed to depart a long-lasting influence on our membership, our group, and the game of baseball,” the assertion mentioned.

Through a lot of baseball’s golden age, Brooks Calbert Robinson Jr. was a poster boy for the nationwide pastime, a logo of Americana whose visage was even captured in a 1971 Norman Rockwell portray.

The face of the Orioles for almost 1 / 4 of a century, Robinson gained the guts of the town that adopted the deft-handed child from Arkansas in 1955 and by no means let go. Before Ripken, there was Robinson. Before Cal, there was Brooks. Before the Iron Man, there was the Human Vacuum Cleaner. As Oriole icons, no others come shut.

Robinson performed 23 years in Baltimore, piling up numbers that made him one of many sport’s best third basemen and which put him within the Hall of Fame in 1983. He was the AL’s Most Valuable Player in 1964 and the World Series MVP in 1970, when he led the Orioles over the Cincinnati Reds. Then a balding, 33-year-old father of 4, Robinson thwarted the Big Red Machine, sport after sport, on a nationwide stage with good backhand stabs, off-balance pegs and well timed (.429) hitting.

From then on, America knew his title.

“I’d pay to watch him play,” Reds star Pete Rose marveled.

Four years earlier, Robinson had helped the Orioles win their first world championship. In 1966, they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in 4 straight video games as Robinson homered in his first at-bat. Fans keep in mind his joyful leap within the air, captured on movie, on the Series’ finish.

“My kids thought it was trick photography,” Robinson mentioned. “They told me, ‘Dad, you never jumped that high in your life.’ “

Robinson hit 268 house runs, performed in 18 straight All-Star video games, gained 16 consecutive Gold Gloves and set a slew of information for third basemen, together with most putouts, assists, double performs and fielding proportion (.971). Even Pie Traynor, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Hall of Fame third baseman of the Twenties, paid homage to Robinson some 40 years later.

“I once thought of giving him some tips, but dropped the idea,” Traynor mentioned. “He’s just the best there is.”

In 1999, Robinson was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century workforce. In 2007, baseball followers named him one of the best defensive third baseman of all time in balloting performed by Rawlings. No different place participant acquired as a lot of the vote (61%).

“Brooks stood among the greatest defensive players who have ever lived,” Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred mentioned in a Tuesday assertion, citing his file and calling him “a true gentleman who represented our game extraordinarily well on and off the field all his life.”

Modest to a fault, Robinson appeared unfazed by accolades. Accepting his MVP award in 1964, he quipped, “I’m still trying to figure out how I hit 28 homers.”

In 1983, at his Hall of Fame induction, Robinson appeared misplaced, Sun columnist Michael Olesker wrote:

“Brooks walked onto the stand looking shy and a little self-conscious, as though maybe a mistake had been made, that he’d gotten in on a pass somehow but was thrilled about it anyway.”

To the tip, Robinson appeared perplexed by his inclusion at Cooperstown.

“Every month, I think about going back there to make sure no one takes my plaque off the wall,” he informed The Sun in 2007. “There’s [Ted] Williams, with a lifetime batting mark of .344. And Joe DiMaggio. And [Stan] Musial.

“And, oh, there’s Brooks, who hit .267.

“How did I get into the Hall of Fame, anyway?”

Pigeon-toed and gradual afoot, Robinson made up for it with certain palms, lightning reflexes and an unerring knack for making acrobatic throws that will nip runners by a whisker. He barehanded bunts with poetic precision.

“The baseball didn’t have much of a chance, going one-on-one with Robinson, be it on the ground or in the air,” wrote Phil Jackman, who lined the Orioles for The Evening Sun.

Hitting was one other matter. A infamous streak hitter, Robinson carried the membership (.295, 17 house runs) for the primary half of 1966, after which tailed off on the finish (.236, 6 homers). But his fielding by no means wavered.

“Watching Brooks play third is like watching Oscar Robertson play basketball every day,” teammate Frank Robinson mentioned.

Robinson’s fame was such that he shared his moniker with a number of kids who have been named for him, together with former professional quarterback Brooks Bollinger (Dallas Cowboys) and punter Brooks Barnard (Maryland and New England Patriots).

“There must be hundreds of little Brookses running around,” Robinson mentioned in 2000. “I’ve even had a few dogs named after me.” Also a street in Pikesville (Brooks Robinson Drive) and a plaza exterior the ballpark in York, Pennsylvania, the place his baseball profession started.

It was there, in 1955, one 12 months after the beginning of the trendy Orioles, that “Bob” Robinson (because the York stadium announcer known as him), a free agent from Little Rock, launched a 23-year profession that endeared him to Baltimore and to baseball, as properly.

“He was the heart and soul of the Baltimore Orioles. Always has been. Probably always will,” mentioned former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, who joined the workforce in 1976. “You understood why the Orioles became a powerhouse, because Brooks Robinson just paved the way, the way he played. Everybody else fell in line behind him.”

Robinson was 18, a thin, moon-faced child, when he signed with the Orioles for $4,000 on May 28. The son of a fireman, he’d had a paper route the place he practiced throwing dailies onto the porch of Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, the New York Yankees catcher, who lived close by. Robinson’s highschool (Little Rock Central) had no baseball workforce, so he starred as a substitute in observe and basketball and, in summer season, performed infield for the native American Legion membership.

Courted by 13 of the 16 huge league groups, he selected Baltimore as a result of he thought the lowly Birds supplied him the quickest trip to the majors.

Assigned to York (Class B), Robinson performed second base however quickly moved to 3rd due to his fast reflexes and lack of vary. Recalled by the Orioles towards the tip of 1955, he acquired two hits in his first sport on Sept. 17 towards the Washington Senators, and thought he was sizzling stuff.

“I believed this game was made for me,” Robinson recalled. “I got cocky as the devil. What a mistake! I went 0-for-18 the rest of the year, and struck out 10 times.”

He couldn’t hit a curve or changeup, and appeared jittery at third.

“I played like I was on roller skates,” Robinson mentioned.

The Orioles appreciated what they noticed.

“One of these days, that kid is going to be the best third baseman in the league,” supervisor Paul Richards predicted.

Robinson spent a lot of the subsequent two years in San Antonio (AA), honing his abilities and wowing the membership along with his fielding, nonetheless offbeat it appeared.

“We called him ‘Crazy Legs’ in the Texas League,” Oriole outfielder Carl Powis as soon as mentioned. “He looked like [football star] Crazy Legs Hirsch the way he chased in on grounders. But he gobbled up everything.”

Robinson bounced from the minors to the massive leagues for 5 seasons, struggling on the plate earlier than making it for good. Before that, the Orioles had tried as many as 10 gamers a 12 months at third base. By 1960, the job belonged to at least one man. His it could keep for 16 years.

Everything dovetailed for Robinson in 1960. Only 23 years previous, he hit .294, set a membership file for hits and led all AL third basemen in fielding. He made the All-Star workforce, gained his first Gold Glove, completed third in balloting for MVP and almost led the Orioles, a sixth-place workforce the 12 months earlier than, to their first pennant.

“He’s the most improved player in the league,” supervisor Casey Stengel of the New York Yankees mentioned. That fall, Robinson wed Connie Butcher, an airline stewardess he’d met on a workforce flight to Boston. Married 51 years, they’d 4 kids and eight grandchildren.

From the beginning, Robinson spoiled Orioles followers who have been satisfied of his infallibility with the glove.

On these uncommon events when Robinson erred, Evening Sun columnist Bill Tanton wrote in 1963, “It’s like [Arthur] Rubinstein hitting a sour note, or one of the Flying Wallendas toppling from the high wire.”

Businesses appreciated his crew-cut appears and Southern drawl and lined as much as bandy about his title. By 1964 he owned a sporting items retailer, had half possession of the Gorsuch House Restaurant, and was churning out radio commercials for every thing from banks to margarine to spaghetti. Vitalis employed Robinson to hawk its hair tonic, ignoring that he was half-bald.

That 12 months, 1964, was his greatest in baseball. He had profession highs in common (.317), homers (28) and RBIs (118), which led the AL and iced his MVP award. Again, Robinson nearly single-handedly led Baltimore to a flag. The Orioles completed two video games out.

That winter, the Orioles signed him for an unprecented $50,000. If this went to Robinson’s head, he didn’t present it. In January 1965, when a blizzard made roads impassable, he as a substitute took a practice to Cumberland for a talking engagement, touring 5½ hours every approach.

“He never bragged about himself or anything. He just went out and did his job. You had to watch him. His approach to the game is what the game should be today,” Dempsey mentioned.

“He was a genuine person. There was no acting or trying to play a role. We were just lucky that we all had him in our lives,” former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer mentioned, with tears in his eyes, throughout Tuesday’s sport towards the Washington Nationals.

Nor did he thoughts sharing the limelight in 1966, when the Orioles dealt for Cincinnati slugger Frank Robinson. The commerce clinched Baltimore’s first pennant because the pair mixed for 72 homers and 222 RBIs and have been dubbed the “Swish Family Robinson.”

In July, along with his workforce having fun with a 14-game lead, supervisor Hank Bauer saluted the Robinsons.

“They mean as much to the Orioles as [Mickey] Mantle and [Roger] Maris once meant to the Yankees,” Bauer mentioned. “I just crank ‘em up and turn ‘em loose. With them, there’s really not a No. 1 and a No. 2. They just take turns.”

With three hits, in 100-degree warmth, Brooks Robinson was named MVP of the All-Star Game, regardless of having performed for the dropping facet. Frank Robinson gained the AL MVP award. Then, in Game 1 of the World Series, the 2 set the tone for the Orioles’ sweep by hitting back-to-back homers towards the Dodgers within the first inning. F. Robby slugged one 375 toes into the left discipline seats, then B. Robby ripped a fair deeper drive to left.

In Game 4, because the Orioles registered the ultimate out, Brooks bounded towards the mound to embrace profitable pitcher Dave McNally. The picture captured the World Series fervor and prompted a Boston discotheque to create a short-lived dance craze known as “The Brooks.”

In 1969, followers voted Robinson “the greatest Oriole in modern-day history.” A 12 months later, he would validate that declare. After a dismal exhibiting (.053) towards the New York Mets within the ’69 World Series, Robinson scrawled on his suitcase, “Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles, 1970 World Champions.”

Then he got down to make it so.

For one week in October, his stellar play riveted the nation and led the Orioles previous Cincinnati within the World Series. Day after day, Robinson flummoxed hitters with diving stops and circus catches that snuffed out rally upon rally. Fittingly, within the final sport, he threw out the ultimate batter. Named MVP of the Series, he acquired a brand new Toyota.

“I never saw a man dominate a single event like Brooks Robinson in the 1970 World Series,” mentioned baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

The Reds simply shook their heads.

“The guy played as though his car had been repossessed,” second baseman Tommy Helms mentioned.

Lee May known as Robinson “the human vacuum cleaner” and requested, ‘Where do they plug Mr. Hoover in?”

“We have no Brooks Robinson in the National League,” Cincinnati supervisor Sparky Anderson mentioned. “I don’t see how anybody could do what this guy does. If I dropped my sandwich, he would dart in, scoop it up on one hop and throw me out.”

Following the Orioles’ victory, reporters sought out No. 5 within the champions’ clubhouse.

“He’s not at his locker yet,” a workforce official mentioned. “But four guys are over there interviewing his glove.”

Several months later, Robinson discovered himself in Rockwell’s studio, the place the artist captured his likeness signing an autograph for a teenager in a portray entitled, “Gee, Thanks, Brooks.” Years later, Robinson bought the piece at public sale for $200,000.

He performed in 4 World Series earlier than retiring in 1977 at age 40. On April 19, he hit his final house run — a three-run, pinch-hit, Tenth-inning blast that defeated the Cleveland Indians, 6-5. Fittingly, he fought off seven foul balls earlier than connecting at Memorial Stadium.

That September, the Orioles held “Thanks, Brooks Day” on the ballpark. Rawlings introduced him with duplicates of his 16 Gold Gloves, since Robinson had donated many of the originals to charity. And Doug DeCinces, the person who changed him at third base, pulled the bag out of the bottom and gave it to his predecessor.

“This is always yours,” he mentioned.

Robinson’s specter remained.

“I can almost feel Brooks’ presence when I stand where he stood,” Cal Ripken Jr. as soon as mentioned.

Robinson’s autobiography, “Third Base Is My Home,” was revealed in 1974.

Robinson was enshrined within the Hall of Fame in 1983 (on the primary poll) earlier than a crowd of 12,000, then the biggest gathering ever at Cooperstown. As Robinson rose to talk, a throng of followers in orange and black cheered and waved indicators that learn “No. 5 is No. 1 !” as a airplane circling overhead trailed a banner saying, “Viva Le Brooks! “

Approaching the rostrum, Robinson’s eye caught a placard, on which was written:

“Players of excessive caliber are few,

Thank God Baltimore had somebody such as you.

Thanks, Brooks.”

His speech mirrored his modesty.

As I stand right here earlier than you, I understand I have to be the luckiest man on this planet. … Throughout my profession, I used to be dedicated to the goodness of this sport. … I thank God for giving me the expertise and the assistance to succeed in the highest of this occupation.”

Robinson stayed busy in retirement. Near chapter in 1976 due to unhealthy enterprise offers, he sought monetary assist, paid his money owed and moved on. He was a longtime spokesman for Crown Central Petroleum, and served as shade commentator for Orioles telecasts within the Eighties.

He threw out a ceremonial first pitch earlier than the final sport at Memorial Stadium (Oct. 6, 1991). Afterward, in a touching farewell, Robinson led a parade of almost 100 former Orioles onto the sphere, the place he strode to 3rd base, punched the pocket of his mitt and crouched, like in previous occasions. Fans wept.

“No one makes people feel better about baseball,” former Sun columnist John Eisenberg as soon as wrote of him. To that finish, in 2009, Baltimore staged “An Evening With Brooks” at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, with heartfelt tributes by Orioles’ Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Earl Weaver, amongst others. And in 2011, a 9-foot bronze likeness of Robinson was unveiled exterior Camden Yards.

“That’s as good as it gets,” he mentioned on the time. “Nothing is left. I will leave this wonderful life with a big smile on my face.”

A favourite of autograph seekers, Robinson would oblige enormous crowds, signing something thrust his approach — from a pet rock (“I used a Sharpie and the autograph turned out fine”) to a brassiere (“At a card show, a woman just pulled down her dress a bit and asked me to sign her bra. Who am I to say no to that?”).

Since 1999, Robinson has been president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. He was additionally part-owner of each the York Revolution and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, a few unbiased minor league golf equipment.

In 2009, he revealed that he had crushed prostate most cancers, following 39 radiation therapies. Fans rallied round him then as they did in April, 2011, when Robinson was hospitalized with an an infection and was besieged with lots of of get-well needs. A 12 months later, whereas attending a baseball dinner in Florida, he fell backward off a stage and broke his shoulder.

In 2005, Robinson informed The Sun that his profession had “handed so quick that generally it looks like I didn’t play in any respect. Now, I’ll be watching on TV and somebody will make a pleasant play at third, and I’ll go, ‘Did I really used to do that?’

“Then the announcer will say, ‘’That was a Brooks Robinson play,’ and I’ll go, ‘Well, I guess I did.’ “

Baltimore Sun reporters Dan Belson, Nathan Ruiz and Jacob Calvin Meyer contributed to this text.